Everyone knows that we don’t really experience a “fall season” in Sarasota. It’s probably best just to call it the first time of the year where we wake up to cooler mornings and can jump into the car without letting the hot air out first.
But for us dedicated foodies – you know who you are – fall signifies a time more magical than cooler weather. For it’s in the fall that local farmers start bringing back the harvest that doesn’t thrive in the typical hot summer, and our local chefs celebrate with exciting new fall menus.
The Table Creekside is known for switching up their menu to showcase local produce, so we were pleasantly surprised to get an invite from local foodie maven, Judi Gallagher, to try out their new fall menu with her and two other couples. Let me say straight up, Judi isn’t happy unless we try everything new on the menu, and thankfully, all these dishes were served family style for the group of us to share. Whew!
First things first, it’s always the cocktail hour at The Table Creekside, where unique cocktails are the norm, not the exception. First of two new cocktails on the fall menu is the Sweet Symphony, made with 1 1/2 oz. vodka, 1 oz. pear nectar, 1/2 oz. lychee liquor and 1/2 oz. simple syrup. This is a light, refreshing cocktail, but what makes it extra special is the lychee pearls in the bottom of each glass. You won’t see them until one bumps against your tongue, and the juice explodes in your mouth when you bite into them. This was a fun surprise, obviously the crescendo of the Sweet Symphony.
The second cocktail made an appearance worthy of a magician, the Ol’ Smokey was mixed at our table, starting with a tall bottle filled with apple wood smoke. Our host, Matthew, mixed 1 1/2 oz. of house infused Apple-Honey Bourbon with 2 dashes of black walnut bitters and 2 splashes of water. Then he poured the mixed ingredients into the bottle full of smoke, allowing the cocktail to take on a smoky flavor that cannot be duplicated any other way. Poured over a large ball of ice, Mart declared this his new favorite sipping cocktail, with fall being the ideal time to introduce it to Sarasota.
By now our servers were bringing out some delicious new menu items from the kitchen, the first being a Napa Grilled Octopus with chorizo fingerling potato hash and salsa verde. Most of us agreed that the chorizo hash would be great at breakfast as well, but the octopus had my vote as star of this plating. When octopus is cooked correctly, as it was here, it has the slightest chew to it, while remaining tender and succulent. Totally yum!
Next on the starter course, which we again shared, was a delightful Short Rib Rangoon with a wasabi aioli. These babies are great, and I’m thinking it would be fun to serve them to someone without telling them there’s short rib inside. Seriously, I knew to expect it, but it still surprised me. By all appearances, this is a Chinese fried dumpling. But by the taste, it’s a Southern fried meat pie. You have to try an order when you visit.
Salads were the next two plates to visit our table, the first an Heirloom Beet Carpaccio with a delightful pumpkin seed brittle, a creamy gorgonzola and the perfect clementine vinaigrette. Showcasing both yellow and red heirloom beets, the combination of the thinly sliced beets, soft gorgonzola and crunchy pumpkin seed brittle was a dream.
The second salad featured Heirloom Tomatoes, with burratta, olive vinaigrette and micro greens. Fortunately for me, I was seated next to someone who doesn’t like tomatoes, so he didn’t mind that I scarfed up everyone of these succulent jewels. (Hooray for me!)
But turn about is fair play, so when our next course, a Colorado Beef Pho, hit the table, I encouraged our non-tomato eating dinner companion to eat as much as he’d like. This dish arrives in two parts. The fideo noodles, root vegetables, organic spinach and Colorado beef were served in a large bowl, with the wagyu broth poured over it at the table. Very nice. You could see the noodles swell to absorb the broth, which I would have been happy to drink from the teapot it came in. Table Creekside, can you treat us any better? I can’t imagine how!
Well, I spoke too soon, as next up was an Oven Roasted Branzino with pink shrimp, baby calmari, oyster mushrooms, kelp cavatelli pasta and romesco. Now, I’ve never had kelp pasta before, and so I thoroughly enjoyed this healthy alternative to flour. The fish was cooked perfectly, moist and easily falling off the bone. I am now thoroughly spoiled.
But as dinners with Judi Gallangher are wont to do, comes the saying; “But wait! There’s more!” and so my favorite dish of the night was delivered to the table at The Table. The Roasted Suckling Pig was about as amazing a pork dish as Mart and I have had in a long, long time. The skin was blistered and crunchy, the meat juicy and flavorful. Served with a fall legume confit and Caribbean root vegetable mash, Chef Pedro Flores couldn’t have done a single thing to improve upon the Suckling Pig. Wow! We were talking about this dish for days!
Thinking we were gluttons for punishment, Judi had ordered three servings of the Pacific Mixed Grill for our table, only to see all three couples waving their white napkins, admitting defeat. “You’re Killing me, Smalls!” was thrown in Judi’s direction, which is quite funny, as she is quite tall.
Even with Judi’s prodding, we could not be talked into dessert, though everyone sampled – and took home – almost a full order of the Pacific Mixed Grill. Consisting of bison steak, roasted beef rib, Colorado sausage, bbq yucca chips and roasted endives, this dish is made for the carnivore in most of us. Mart nicknamed the roasted beef rib “the cotton candy of beef,” for the way it melted on your tongue. I was also a big fan of the roasted endives, which added the right amount of “zip” to the featured proteins.
So, as we basically rolled out of our chairs, and into our cars, we offered huge thanks to Judi for inviting us to join her that night, and suggest you try her recipe for a fun evening out with friends. Grab a table for six, and order multiple plates from The Table Creekside’s new fall menu, and share them. You won’t be disappointed in anything we’ve mentioned here. And, I suspect, you’ll be talking about those Lycee pearls and crackling pig skin for days afterwards. I know we are!